23 Subtle Signs of a Controlling Boyfriend Most Girls Don’t Notice

You may think your boyfriend loves you a lot. But is it love or is it his way of controlling you? Check these subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend.

15 Subtle Signs of a Controlling Boyfriend

It’s always romantic and sweet when a guy cares about you. But sometimes, protectiveness and concern can be a thin veil that hides the signs of a controlling boyfriend. And chances are, you won’t even be able to tell the difference until you start to feel suffocated or miserable, without even knowing why!

This is all too common now, especially with social media glorifying control and scraps of attention as romantic instead of what it really is – a shitty excuse of a relationship that’s based on fake romantic gestures, control and game-playing.

How to tell if a guy is loving or just plain controlling

Does your boyfriend care about you?

Is he protective of you and helpful with decisions all the time?

Is he deeply in love with you?

Does he help you live a better life?

Or is he just controlling you?

Almost always, you’ll never really know the difference.

Here’s some food for thought – all of us try to control our partners subtly, especially when we feel like they’re drifting or moving in a different direction that we don’t approve of.

But unknowingly, this subtle urge to help our partner “lead a better life” as per our standards could turn into a dangerous obsession for all the wrong reasons.

You may think your boyfriend loves you, but when you really think about it, you may realize that you’re being controlled by an unintentional deceptive schemer.

[Read: 15 signs of manipulation in a relationship you should never, ever ignore]

The types of controlling boyfriends

There are two types of controlling boyfriends.

There’s the violent physically abusive boyfriend. And then, there’s the caring, sensitive boyfriend who controls you emotionally.

It’s easy to pinpoint a physically abusive controlling boyfriend. If he’s ever raised his hand on you for the smallest of reasons or uses force to tell you what to do, it’s obvious he belongs to this type. He may love you a lot, but his urge to dominate your life could end up hurting you forever. [Read: 17 big signs of a jealous and possessive boyfriend]

On the other hand, there’s the emotionally controlling boyfriend who never dominates over you, but still finds a way to cut out your legs from under you.

You may never know you’re dating an emotionally controlling boyfriend until it’s too late. But use these tips here to find out the hidden signs of a controlling boyfriend.

The signs of an emotionally controlling boyfriend

While physically controlling or abusive boyfriends are easy to recognize, the emotionally controlling boyfriend is the worst there is, because you won’t EVER recognize him, not at least at first!

An emotionally controlling boyfriend is a scary guy. He falls deeply in love with you and treats you like a princess all the time. And all along, he makes himself seem helpless and weak without you. Eventually, you’ll find yourself feeling more protective about him, and will start to fall more in love with him.

And somewhere along the way, you’ll begin to see a few of these signs of a controlling boyfriend. If you do notice these signs and it bothers you, put a stop to his behavior. And walk out of the relationship if he doesn’t change. [Read: 16 signs it’s clearly time to end the relationship and move on!]

You have to remember that emotionally controlling boyfriends aren’t always bad guys. They’re just insecure and possessive. And they just forget where to draw the line when it comes to trying to control you.

At the end of the day, it’s in your own hands to fall for his ploy or guide him to change for the better.

The secret signs of a controlling boyfriend you should never ignore

Watch out for these subtle signs, and if you do find your boyfriend’s behavior bordering on any of these controlling signs, talk to him about it and ask him to change. If he is a genuinely good guy, he’ll understand where you’re coming from, and he’ll fix it. But if he’s one of those guys who is intentionally manipulating you with his vulnerable act, he’ll stay the same and try to control you even more!

So is he a great guy, full of love, affection and genuine concern? Or is he trying to control you? Read these signs of a controlling boyfriend, and ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of these signs, however subtle they may be.

[Read: Psychological manipulation – 16 signs and tactics real manipulators use]

1. He puts you down

A controlling boyfriend doesn’t like it when you’re too independent. He puts you down when you do something by yourself and makes it look like you can’t do anything without his help. He picks flaws in anything you do, and helps you do a better job.

He disrespects you and anything you do, and makes it seem like you need him to become a better person. This will eventually make you lose your own confidence, and wait for his reassurance and help each time you try something new. [Read: How to spot codependent behavior early on and regain your self-identity]

2. He doesn’t like it when you go out with your friends

Does he say your friends are a bad influence or does he think one of your guy friends is hitting on you? He starts to choose your friends and tells you whom to hang out with. Eventually you’d find yourself losing touch with most of your friends. [Read: How to tell when a guy is jealous – 25 hints he just can’t hide]

3. He’s insecure and doubts you

He plays mind games and tries to trap you with tricky, unnecessary questions. He tries confusing you into giving him contradictory answers which makes you feel like you are the bad person in the relationship.

4. He wants to know everything about you

He hates secrets. At first, you think this is sweet and so romantic! He tells you all his passwords and secrets, and expects you to do the same, be it your phone, email or social media accounts. He wants to know every single detail of your daily life, and when he finds out that you haven’t told him a few things, he acts pained and hurt.

5. He stalks you

He wants you to keep in touch with him very often, and he wants to be informed about everything you’re doing even if you’re just stepping out of office for a coffee break with your friends.

One of the signs of a controlling boyfriend is that he expects detailed updates about what you do every hour of the day. And if you forget to update him because you were busy or out having fun with friends, he blames you for not investing enough time and love in the relationship. [Read: The serious signs of clingy guys and how to recognize them]

6. He doesn’t like it when you have fun without him

This is rather simple and easy to see. If you go out with your own friends for a night out without him, he sulks or acts grumpy and makes up another excuse about why he’s upset. Sometimes, he may even blame you for his mood and use an excuse like “you didn’t call me enough” or “you ignored me”.

He feels unloved every moment when you’re with someone else. It’s all sweet, until you realize that he’s happiest when you spend time with no one else but him!

7. He cripples you

He looks for any excuse to prove a point. If something offends or bothers him, he’ll wait for a perfect excuse to bring that conversation up and prove his point. If your friend gets into a car crash, he may gloat about it and make it a point to tell you why he doesn’t like you travelling with that guy. He loves saying “I told you so” and makes you feel lost without his guidance in life. [Read: Is he being protective or does he have ulterior motives?]

8. He’s jealous

This can seem cute at first, but over time, his jealousy could turn into an obsession that borders on insanity. A cute guy from work wants to connect with you on social media? Your boyfriend is convinced he’s a sleazy guy and wants you to block him. You’re smiling to yourself as you text a friend, he accuses you of having more fun with other people instead of him.

The only way a controlling boyfriend will ever be happy is if you spend time with no one else but him, and if he’s the only guy in the whole world who can make you smile. [Read: How to make turn your boyfriend into a not-so-jealous one]

9. You can’t do anything important without him

When you achieve something without his help, he treats it like it was no big deal. He behaves like your promotions at work, the skills you’ve developed yourself, and your personal achievements are not big milestones in your life.

The only achievements that he considers big milestones are the ones that he participated in – like when he offered to drop you to an interview and you bagged the job “only because he got you there on time”. Or if you start distancing yourself from a friend because you think she’s toxic, and he pats you on the back, grins wide and says you’re doing the right thing because “he told you to avoid this bad friend”.

10. He’s never at fault

But you always are. Even if he meets with an accident on the way to work, he blames it on someone else or the big fight both of you had that morning. But if you make a mistake, your controlling boyfriend will make sure he constantly reminds you about the incident over and over again – in a very “loving and concerned” manner, of course!

11. He has different principles for you and him

He doesn’t like it when you hang out with a few of your friends. But when he meets his own friends, even the ones you dislike, he makes it seem like you’re the one misunderstanding his friends. He creates his own rules for himself, and imposes different rules on you. [Read: 22 big early warning signs of a bad boyfriend]

12. He takes decisions in your life

He may seem like a chivalrous knight who’s always around to help you make up your mind. But very soon you’d see that he’s actually the one manipulating you and making all the decisions for you. And even if you do make a decision yourself, he picks flaws in it and shows you how wrong you are, even if you know you’re right. And before you know it, you’d start to believe you can’t take any decisions without his advice!

13. He gaslights you

This is a terrible thing to experience. But you will, and very often! One of the signs of a controlling boyfriend is his ability to make you doubt yourself. It may not be in the most obvious of ways, but he’d gaslight you enough to make you feel like an idiot, and a bad girlfriend.

Are you making plans to go out on Friday night with your friends? Your boyfriend may sulk and tell you that both of you had plans already on that very night. But you probably have no idea, do you? Your boyfriend makes up some half-truths, creates a story or makes up a lie, and convinces you that BOTH of you had decided to do something together on that very Friday night. It’s funny how he had never even mentioned his plan until you decided to meet your friends. Welcome to the world of gaslighting, and lots of it! [Read: How to spot gaslighting in a relationship and shut it down for good]

14. He snoops into your life

You’re texting a friend, and he slides over and stares into your phone screen. You’re talking to a friend? He snatches the phone away to say hello because “he wants your friends to like him”. You’re watching Netflix, and he takes your phone, unlocks it and starts reading your texts. It’s all harmless and cute.

But here’s the thing, each time he takes your phone, you can’t help but feel uneasy because it seems like an invasion of your privacy, without your permission. But to him, this is what couples should do!

15. He guilt trips you successfully

Controlling boyfriends are master guilt-trippers! So you were late to meet him for dinner because you were hanging out with another friend before you met him? Or you took just a little longer to get there because you were on phone with someone? As soon as you meet your guy, be prepared to hear a sad story about how your delay caused something terrible to happen in his life.

Every single opportunity he gets, a controlling boyfriend will try to make you feel guilty for not toeing his line. And before you know it, you’ll find yourself behaving like his loyal and obedient slave instead of an independent and happy girl who’s dating a guy. [Read: 15 healthy boundaries you need to set early in a relationship]

16. He worries that you’re easily manipulated

He’s convinced you that you’re the sweet and innocent little Bambi, and that the whole world is out to get you. And trick you. A guy says ‘hi’ at work, your boyfriend explains how that guy only wants to have sex with you. Your boss offers you a raise? Your boyfriend tells you your boss wants to sleep with you. Your friend invites you to dinner? He says it’s only because she found no one else to go out with. Your friend asks for help with shopping? Your man reveals just how your friends manipulate and use you.

Every step of the way, he “proves” just how vulnerable you are without him, and how the whole world wants nothing more than to manipulate you because you’re just a little silly and too dumb to see it.

17. He makes you choose

This is dangerous, and something that should get your warning bells ringing! If you’re not convinced by something he says, he goes into ultimatum mode – It’s either my way or your way. The minute he says this, you feel guilty because by now, you believe he knows you best, so you just go with whatever he says, even if you’re not convinced that’s what you want.

18. You betray him all the time

Do you ever feel that way? He makes you feel like a bad lover for the smallest of things. He says he wants to trust you, but you make it hard for him to trust you. He manipulates situations and makes it seem like you’re the bad one who lies, when in fact, it’s probably an issue that’s so trivial it’s not even worth a conversation. Let alone an argument.

19. He constantly feels neglected

No matter what you do or how much you juggle things around to be with him, he’s convinced you neglect him and give more importance to other “lesser-important” things like your job, family or your friends. And somehow, you believe him because he loves you with all his heart.

He can’t understand why you need friends when he’s available all day to spend time with? Are your friends more important than your relationship? Don’t you want to spend time with him? And guess what, this is how you start neglecting everything else in your life. [Read: 16 abusive relationship signs of a devious and controlling lover]

20. He breaks down when you take a stand

This is a sick trait of an emotionally controlling boyfriend, but it’s one that’ll always show up when you take a stand. Whenever you take a stand or refuse to listen to him, he may argue with you.

But when he can’t get it his way, he may break down and cry about how you don’t understand him anymore. What happens eventually is that you’d end up giving in for his happiness. And feel really guilty for being so mean to such a “nice guy” too. [Read: 21 signs of emotional abuse you may be overlooking]

21. You lose your freedom

You find yourself asking for his permission to do anything. You start to believe he’s the best thing that’s happened in your life. All of a sudden, you’re convinced that he’s your personal god and the one who’s always right. Want to go have lunch with your friends? Want to go grocery shopping? Want to watch a new series on Netflix? Hold on, you need to ask for his permission first. What if he has some plans that involve you?

22. You no longer know what you want

Your whole life revolves around him. He makes you believe he’s the one who can make you happy and no one else. And surprisingly, you’d start believing it too. His happiness becomes yours, his wants are your wants, and his likes become your likes. Your whole world will start to revolve around him, and nothing else.

23. Only he knows what’s best for you

It doesn’t matter what it’s about, he has to be the first person to hear about it. Making a life decision? You have to accept what he decides, because he knows what’s best for you. Of course, he’ll be so subtle and manipulative about it, you’ll actually believe him. You may not realize it, but he’s now controlling you, the people you meet, and the direction of your life.

How did your controlling boyfriend start controlling your life?

How did this happen? Well, with his subtle controlling ways, that you probably mistook for love all along!

You need to understand that a controlling boyfriend loves the idea of controlling you way more than being in love with you. He needs control in his life to function. This could be because of his past relationships, his childhood years with zero control, or his own dysfunctions. But

Every lover has a controlling streak within them, but there’s the thin red line that makes all the difference. [Read: 18 signs to know if your man’s overprotective and dominating]

A relationship shouldn’t change who you are, especially when you’re already a happy person. You should be the only one who can change who you are.

[Read: 33 traits of a good boyfriend you should look for in a relationship]

You can change your controlling boyfriend if you want to. Just watch out for these subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend and put an end to it as soon as it crops up. If you don’t, you may end up losing yourself instead!

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...